Little Kelly Green Men

“Are the people on your planet usually in a frantic panic, like they are here most of the time?”—Steve Vai, Little Green Men


This one is an oldie but a goodie – at least old as far as close encounter stories go, but good by any standard. It’s considered a classic of UFO lore. If you’ve never heard it, you need to. It’s the story of the Kelly Green Men, aka the Hopkinsville Goblins, which would be the perfect name for a minor league baseball team if they ever get one. I know I’ll buy a jersey.

Precisely who was involved in the incident isn’t entirely clear. We know that it involved the Sutton family, who lived on the property where the events took place. There was also a second family present for the festivities, but exactly who they were is never clearly stated by any source that I can find. They may have been the family of Billy Ray Taylor from Pennsylvania, who was definitely there visiting the Suttons and may have owned the property. Everyone seems to agree that there were eleven people at the house – either eight adults and three children or seven adults and four kids. Despite these inconsistencies and sketchy details, we know that something happened that night as at least 20 law enforcement officers and possibly some military investigators became involved in the festivities. There was also testimony from a number of neighbors who reported seeing strange lights and hearing weird sounds on the night in question.

It started on the evening of August 21, 1955 on a farm near the tiny town of Kelly, Kentucky. Sometime around 7:00 pm, Billy Ray Taylor went outside to retrieve some water from the well. When he came back in the house, he told everyone that he had seen a flying saucer come down out of the sky and disappear into a gully near the edge of the property. Everyone laughed at him and accused him of exaggerating having seen a shooting star. About an hour later, the family dog started barking at something outside, then ran and hid under the house where it remained until the next day. Billy Ray and Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, apparently the only grown men present, went outside armed with a 20 gauge shotgun and a .22 caliber rifle to see what was going on.

Sketch of Kelly GoblinWhat they saw was a glowing shape in the field that was approaching the farmhouse. As it got closer, it became clear that the glowing object was a being about three to four feet tall. It had a large head with big, bulging yellow eyes that were partially on the sides. It had large, pointed ears and long arms that nearly reached the ground and claws on the ends of its fingers. Its legs were short and scrawny, and it walked with a peculiar gait, as if it were sloshing its way through waist deep water. It was either silver or wearing a tight-fitting silver suit. It approached them with its arms raised above its head as if it were surrendering…or signaling touchdown.

This obviously didn’t impress Sutton and Taylor, because when the creature was about 20 feet away, they opened fire. Rather than falling down dead like a reasonable creature would do when shot at point blank range, this one instead did a backflip and then scurried off into the woods on its tiny little legs, all of which I would have paid to have seen.

The two men went back in the house, but it wasn’t long before the creature, or perhaps another one, was back and peering in a window. They fired at it through the screen, and once again it did a backflip and then ran off. Lucky and Billy Ray, certain that they had hit the creature, went out to see if they could find any evidence that it was wounded. On the porch, a clawed hand reached down from the roof and grabbed Billy Ray by the hair. Family members were able to pull him away, and Lucky ran out into the yard and shot the creature on the roof, causing it to roll off the side of the house. Another one was spotted in a nearby tree, and both men shot at it. Instead of falling, it floated down to the ground and disappeared into the darkness. The one that had been on the roof came back around to the front of the house and stood right in front of the startled witnesses. Lucky fired his shotgun at it, and this time it didn’t bother with any gymnastics. It just turned and ran off into the woods.

With all of their visitors now gone, everyone went back inside the house. The calm didn’t last though. The creatures kept reappearing at the windows, and the men kept firing at them. This was despite the fact that a Mrs. Lankford, seemingly the matriarch of the bunch, had suggested a cease to the hostilities, pointing out that the beings had taken no aggressive action nor had they tried to enter the house. Clearly the menfolk disagreed and kept shooting.

The families would later report that when the creatures were struck by gunfire, it sounded like bullets hitting a metal bucket, but there were no holes made or any trace of blood, except for possibly one place that was discovered later. They also estimated that there were at least a dozen of these beings, although it doesn’t seem that they ever saw more than two at one time. This may be because they couldn’t believe that the ones who were shot were uninjured and kept coming back for more.

Newspaper photo of three of the witnessesI suppose it never occurred to these bumpkins not to shoot at creatures who approached them with their hands up, or at least to stop shooting at them when it had no effect. Then again, when that didn’t happen, these beings could have just left. I get the impression that the goblins were just screwing with them after that, but we’ll never know how they would have reacted if they’d been met with curiosity instead of immediate and unprovoked hostility. If these creatures were extraterrestrial, is it any wonder that they don’t want anything to do with us – at least not in any sort of official, diplomatic capacity?

Anyway, there was a break in the action around 11:00 pm, and the families decided to make a run for it. Everyone piled into the two cars that weren’t on cinder blocks and took off for Hopkinsville, the location of the nearest police station. Half an hour later at the station, they told their story to Sheriff Russell Greenwell. He later reported that the families were obviously frightened by something that was beyond their comprehension. He was familiar with these people and did not believe that they would make up such a story. Shortly after midnight, 20 state and local officers descended on the property, possibly accompanied by four military policemen from a nearby Army base. They found the house badly shot up but saw no evidence of the creatures. Some reports claim that they located a patch of ground that was glowing where one of the creatures had been shot, but it was back to normal by the following morning.

Some of the Sutton’s neighbors who were questioned that night and the following day reported seeing strange lights in the sky earlier that evening and hearing the gunfire coming from the Sutton farm. A local police officer out on patrol that night also saw what appeared to be an unusual craft flying through the sky, making sounds like artillery fire.

Police remained at the farm for a couple of hours, the last ones leaving at around 2:15 am. The families had calmed down enough by then to try to get some sleep. Once again, the quiet didn’t last.

About 3:00 am, Mrs. Lankford spotted one of the glowing goblins peering in a window. Although she once again encouraged the family to let cooler heads prevail, Lucky Sutton again decided that aggression was the better part of valor and opened fire. This went on periodically for the rest of the night, stopping only at around 5:15, about half an hour before sunrise, when they last spotted one of the creatures. How they departed is unknown. No one reported seeing any sort of unusual objects in the sky that morning.

In all, more than 100 shots were fired that night with no apparent effect except to damage the property. Because if something doesn’t work the first hundred times you try, you might as well keep doing it. It’s bound to work sooner or later, right?

The police and possibly some Air Force officers came back later that day, but even in daylight they could find no evidence of the creatures’ presence or any craft having landed nearby. Several UFO investigators spoke with members of the Sutton family and drawings of the beings were made from their descriptions. No one but the military seemed to think that the witnesses were making the story up, including the late, great J. Allen Hynek, who spoke with the family some years later. Air Force investigators from Project Blue Book looked into the case and dismissed it as a hoax. Why the Suttons would have fabricated such a story is unknown. All that they got for their trouble was ridicule and extensive and expensive property damage. They never made a cent from the story.

The deeper questions, if you choose to believe that these events happened as described, remain unanswered. Why would apparent aliens choose a farm in a rural part of Kentucky to make their landing? Why would they keep coming back for over nine hours despite being greeted with nothing but gunfire? If they were extraterrestrials seeking to make contact with simple human residents of the planet, they showed an amazing about of persistence, patience and restraint. Obviously (at least to those of you who have read much of my earlier stuff), I’m more than a bit skeptical about that. As is often the case with the alleged aliens, this whole incident looks to me like it was some kind of psychological experiment. What the point of it all was remains a mystery, at least to me. I nevertheless get the impression that Mrs. Lankford may have been the only one who passed.

Sign for Little Green Men Days FestivalTo conclude on a more positive note…

If you’re already thinking about next summer’s vacation, keep in mind that the tiny town of Kelly still has a Little Green Men Days Festival every year, because they know which side their bread is buttered on. Even little Hopkinsville has a community college, but without the events of 1955, Kelly would just be another wide spot in the road with a post office and a Dairy Queen. Now they even have a reason to have a website. So this August, grab your foil hat and your banjo and head for Kentucky. A good time is a distinct possibility!


and all the devils are here



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